What Type Of Backpacker Are You?

Taxi mafia Khao San Road Thailand

With so many different groups and tribes of backpacker heading out on their gap year now, it can be confusing trying to figure out which one is which. There are a whole host of different groups and tribes under the backpacker umbrella, and to figure out what group you belong to you also have to know what type of traveller you are. So with so many different backpacker tribes, which one do you belong to?

No matter what the stereotypical image of the modern day backpacker might be, we are not one indigenous group culture migrating around the traditional gringo and banana pancake trails.

There are so many different types of backpacker now that to be honest the term itself defies the traditional stereotype.

Backpacking has evolved as the demographics indulging in it have changed, and now there are backpackers of all ages, creeds and backgrounds, and many different subsets and tribes within those demographics too. Here is a slightly tongue in cheek look at the different types of backpacker just to give you an idea of what to expect on the road, as well as to get you used to some of the terminology that is springing up as backpacking becomes an industry in and of itself!

The Gap Year Traveller.

This is the group that most people generally associate with the stereotype of backpacking. This species of backpacker are either about to start uni or have just graduated, and often stumble around the usual gringo or banana pancake trail on a traditional RTW ticket, wide eyed, LP guide book in hand and oversized backpack permanently attached to their semi hunched spines. Usually found in the backpacker ghettos of Khao San Road in Bangkok or anywhere that is mentioned in the LP guidebook, they can often be found being really original by queuing up for the quintessential dreadlock hairstyle everyone else has and being chased by pushy touts and tuk tuk drivers.

The Full Moon Partier.

What do you mean there are temples in Mexico? This subset of the gap yearer follows the party scene in every country they visit. Foregoing all the little inconsequential things most countries have to offer such as temples, history, gourmet food and culture, this group simply heads to the nearest backpacker bar and proceeds to drink it dry. Often plans a migratory route around the world based on the timings of the full moon parties in Thailand or the carnivals and festivals of South or Central America. They usually like to stay in major cities or chilled out beaches (as long as it has a few bars and a good party scene). This group is usually best observed early in the morning, when they are recovering from a hangover in the cheapest accommodation a particular place has. Occasionally returns home to visit an STI clinic or found in captivity on one of those banged up abroad programmes on TV after losing all intelligent thought after a few drinks.

The Chelsea Traveller.

This relatively rare tribe of backpacker is epitomized by their uniform of  rugger shirts and designer clothing from Jack Wills, their guffawing friends Tarquin and Rupert and the sincere expression on their faces as they mingle with the poor people in the developing world, usually by doing some form of voluntourism experience for a day or by dressing up in full traditional native dress for a photo op. These upper class buffoons are often found navigating their way around the old colonies on a sponsorship from mummy and daddy’s credit card, attempting to find themselves as they slum it by not eating in the fanciest restaurants.

The Flashpacker.

Usually in their late 20’s or early 30’s, this group are often professional, probably on a career break, and have more money to spend than the average backpacker. They travel in the same independent way, but just have more means to travel with a little more comfort. Favouring boutique hotels and more comfortable accommodation and transport over the usual hostels and budget travel stops of the gap yearer or backpacker, their clothes are often branded and they travel with the latest smartphones and technology to help ease them into their cultural immersion.

The Snap Packer.

This sub group of travellers can belong to any of the traditional or emerging backpacking tribes. They travel in the same way as any other backpacker, and often for the same reasons, but due to career or life constraints they simply limit their backpacking travels to shorter month or two month trips, often staying in one country instead of hopping through a region. They can usually be spotted clustered around wifi hotspots trying to figure out what the must see sights in a given destination are.

The Solo Female Backpacker.

Solo female backpacker travel

Solo travellers can appear in all groups of backpackers, but there is a very specific sub group within this solo tribe that deserve special mention, the solo female backpacker. It is important to note that not all female backpackers fall into this category, both men and women travel alone all the time, but it takes a very special breed of woman to belong to this very select group. You see this group is defined not by travel, not by how they travel, but only and very specifically by their gender.

They are obviously braver, fiercer, more fearless, more independent, more empowered than any other traveller because they are female, and only because they are female. They are women. Female. Female travellers, and women. Did I mention they are female? And this is the only defining characteristic that matters.

In reality there is absolutely no difference between the solo backpackers of either gender and the solo female backpacker, except in the solo female backpacker’s head that is.

The solo female backpacker isn’t even any different to the other female backpackers they share hostels, backpacker bars and local transport with, apart from the fact that they wear their gender as a badge of honour, as if by the miracle of them happening to be a female elevates them above everyone else who also happens to be backpacking solo solely on the basis that they are a woman.

That’s female, in case you missed it, and solo.

Female. Solo. These two salient facts are to be lauded above and beyond anything else they or anyone else does. The fact that they are travelling alone. As a female. ALONE. As a WOMAN. This is something that will be mentioned with great frequency, in case you hadn’t guessed that already.

This magical quality of being alone, and female of course, obviously makes travel much more difficult for them than their male counterparts – well, in their eyes at least if not in reality – and they make sure everyone knows it by ensuring that their gender status is declared at every opportunity in an effort to show how brave and empowered they are for battling against the stereotype that women are weak and unable to handle the dangers of travelling. They are often completely bereft of any understanding of reality and oblivious to the fact that they alone are the ones reinforcing this stereotype, and just cannot understand that no one else really cares anymore.

The SKI’er.

This epic group of legends are older travelers.  Many of whom have retired and have decided to sod their ungrateful offspring and spend the kids inheritance (hence the name SKI’er), sell up and blow their savings on an epic trip or two! And why not? You’ve worked hard all your life, you’ve earned it! It is better to blow all your money now on something worthwhile before the government steals it all to pay for your nursing home care when your mind is too far gone to realise what’s happening! Proof that you can backpack at any age and inspiration to us all! Go for it grandma!

The Digital Nomad.

With the distinctive cry of ‘quit your job and travel‘, this breed of backpacker leaves the cubicle like nest of their former lives and makes their way around the world with no end to their trip in site. Determined to travel everywhere and support themselves by writing a few blog posts and getting a few freebies, despite rarely having any sense of what it takes to run a business.

They can often be found huddled together in ‘co working spaces’ in Chiang Mai or Bali, clinging to their laptops and gadgets as if their life depended on it and try to earn a living by setting up a blog and working online. There are a small number of elite members of this tribe who launch and run successful businesses while working remotely, often spoken about in hushed tones like the legendary Ronin of Japan, but most end up in the depressing world of freelancing while desperately trying to eke out a single penny from their blogs with endless affiliate schemes. Very few members of this traveller tribe make it out in this harsh landscape and many return home dejected and dispirited, realising it is not as easy as they assumed it would be.

The Spiritual Backpacker.

The modern version of the hippy, this long haired tribe of backpacker can be found boring everyone in the hostel senseless by waffling nonstop at how at one with the universe they are. Can often be found amongst the spiritual retreats of India or Asia, learning about the ancient traditions and religions of the world and trying to meditate. They usually subsist on a diet of fruit and vegetables and are terrified of anyone who eats an egg or animal product. Anyone encountering this species in the wild have to play the pronoun guessing game and risk the spiritual backpacker’s rage when they inevitably get it wrong, but their high horse prevents them from doing too much damage and they will often retreat to the safety of their group and pull out a guitar.

The Eat Pray Love Backpacker.

This sub group of the spiritual backpacker are predominantly middle aged housewives bored with their lives, still worshipping at the altar of an overly saccharine paperback and bad movie adaptation over a decade after its release. Descending on Ubud in Bali like a plague of locusts every tourist season, they come to reconnect with the earth and discover their inner selves. They mercifully disappear on a yoga or spiritual retreat for most of the day, only emerging to sip their wheatgrass smoothies or mocha coffees, and wittering at how removed from it all they are before they stick their faces back in their brand new iPads and spend all day in a cafe with free wifi. This sub group of traveller is well known for a complete lack of irony.

The Bragpacker.

This type of backpacker can belong to any one of the other groups, usually using their impressive camouflage skills to blend in, but are easily identified by their strong air of pompous arrogance. It doesn’t matter where you have been or what you have done, they have been and done one better. They just have to turn everything into a competition instead of just letting people tell their stories and listening before telling their own.

The Begpacker.

Not to be confused with buskers or artists using their talent to earn money, this breed of traveller are the scavengers of the backpacker world. Parasitic in nature with a belief that everyone and anyone should fund their round the world trip apart from themselves. Usually bereft of any natural talent the begpacker nonetheless possesses a superior feeling of arrogance and privilege. Some have obtained the ability to use the internet to beg for money on sites like Go Fund Me, while many will simply fall back on their lazy nature and can be found in backpacker hotspots like Khao San Road, simply siting by the side of the road and begging for money to fund their travels.

The Family Packer.

This group of backpacker travels as a family unit. Often one or both of the parents have been an experienced backpacker in their own right before breaking off from their own tribe to form a little one of their own. Often found in family friendly tourist spots such as a zoo or public park in an attempt to appease the notoriously fragile and hard to please baby backpacker, the female of the species often carries a backpack with a specially adapted baby carrier on it, whilst the male of the species wears a constantly harassed facial expression and is weighed down by up to six times as much stuff as he used to be as he carries the females and the baby backpackers belongings along with his own. He can often be identified when away from the family unit by the cloying smell of baby sick and clothing covered with a variety of thrown food induced stains.

The Bear Grylls Backpacker.

This type of backpacker is often found running off into the nearest jungle or desert as far away from the touristy crowds as possible.

They eschew tour groups with a vehement passion and are usually found looking for a beach or island that hasn’t yet been filled with high rise hotels or partying full moon worshipers.  If hiking to Everest base camp in Nepal, this group of backpacker may be so focused on their adventurer status they will have a tendency to run off when the guide finishes the trek at base camp and attempt the ascent to the peak on their own.

The Bear Grylls backpacker can sometimes disappear for long periods of time and then  be found weeks or months later emerging from a jungle or desert, having survived off the land and old ration packs and looking like an extra from an old Rambo movie. If you see this reclusive creature during this re emergence phase don’t be afraid of them, they can be lured back to civilisation with the smell of a good bacon butty and a mango juice or possibly a Tiger beer.

Be warned, this reclusive creature may or may not have a tendency to strip off and jump into an icy lake for no reason.

The Stmp Collector.

This peculiar group of backpacker is barely one step up from a package tourist. Considers even the slightest stopover in a country’s airport as having ‘done’ that country, and can put another tick on their list of places they have visited. Usually starts every conversation with the number of countries they have been to and considers a brief transit time in a city airport to be sufficient to have a cultural understanding of an entire country. This species is loved by the mainstream media for their ability to generate an easy headline, but are under threat from unexplained bouts of irritable violence from other backpackers.

The Voluntourist.

What you should consider before volunteering on your gap year

With a complete lack of any irony, professional skills or qualifications, this naive group of backpackers still expect to travel the world and cuddle a baby member of an endangered species, teach underprivileged kids or perform open heart surgery on sick people in the third world. Can often be identified from the red stain on their shirts from a bleeding heart and an extremely patronizing, patriarchal view toward all the little poor people in the world.

They are perfect prey for the predators that lurk within the voluntourism industry, just waiting to pounce on these wide eyed, eager young pups as they emerge into the world of travelling. When these predators strike, they will relieve them of vast sums of money and drop them in the middle of nowhere and tell them to dig a ditch for a project that has absolutely no benefit to the local population, then ignore them as they complain that the camp has no hotel, hot running water or satellite TV.

On returning home this unfortunately large sub group of backpackers will promptly put up a new profile picture on all their social media of them cuddling a tiger or other endangered animal or posing with a group of poor children on their laps, and will bore everyone senseless by reciting at every opportunity about that week they spent helping out all the poor kids in the third world. Because as volunteers, that obviously makes them a much, much better person.

The Born Again Tourist.

Usually followed by a chorus of ‘aww bless’, this slowly growing group of backpackers can be found emerging from their comfort zones as they are lured away from their air conditioned tour group coaches and all inclusive resorts by the promise of real travel and adventure.

Having spent their entire lives on 2 week all inclusive holiday resorts, they see backpackers at some of the sites their tour group has been taken to and marvel at their ability to get there on their own, stay as long as they want and for a fraction of the price as they are herded back on the bus like sheep. Usually found trying to infiltrate themselves into one of the other backpacker tribes, they are often overly happy at how brave and independent they are being, but these imposters can be identified by their use of archaic travelers cheques and security bum bags. Very jittery and easily scared at first, these newly emerging backpackers occasionally scurry back to the comforts of a tour group and can often be found in a comfortable chain hotel. More often than not, full cultural immersion into one of the other backpacker tribes is attained with time.

Did you enjoy this article? I hope this little list made some of you smile, you may even recognise yourself or someone you know in it? It was predominantly written with tongue firmly in cheek, but there is a little kernel of truth in each of them! Maybe you all know some more? 

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

A Guide For Settling Into The Backpacker Lifestyle.

Backpacker Glossary: Get Used To The Lingo.

Backpacking vs Flashpacking.

How To Plan A Gap Year.

 Is Backpacking Changing Or Am I?

Should You Take Gap Year?

Top 10 Gap Year Myths Debunked.

What I Wish People Had Told Me Before I planned My First Backpacking Trip.

Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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66 comments on “What Type Of Backpacker Are You?
  1. nathanmckinley53 says:

    ” They may or may not have a tendency to strip off and jump into an icy lake for no reason.” I laughed my head off at this! Really well written blog and very funny!

  2. Pete and Christine says:

    SKI’er…… We wish, if only our daughter was going to get an inheritance we could spend.

    • Haha, well I hope you’ve blown it all on an RTW! And if your daughter is anything like me, she’d be glad you did. I’d rather my parents enjoy their money than give it to me.

  3. Milene on the road says:

    Yeah! Love your intake on Solo Female Backpackers… No need to put the female in between solo and backpackers, isn’t it obvious? I hope it is =) Don’t know in which category I belong but maybe (hopefully) I’m one of a kind 😉 Great post, laughed uncontrollably…

    • I’m glad you liked it! And you are exactly right, it is very obvious! Thank you for the comment.

    • Catyren says:

      if we could get lonely planet (and all travel guides) to quit with the “women travellers” section at the end of every destination summary the ‘solo female traveller’ might fade away. As long as the industry keeps making the distinction some women will keep thinking of themselves as different.

      • Catyren I do absolutely agree with you and think that media shouldn’t have that distinction. But I understand why they do it because I think the worst perpetrators of this are women themselves. Seriously, I get a lot of emails and messages asking for travel help and advice, and the absolute majority from women all state categorically that as ‘women’ travellers, or as a ‘female’ traveller they are travelling. Hence the tongue in cheek stereotype. It is women themselves who are keeping and forcing the negative distinction. I wrote a gap year safety bookthat is applicable to both genders, and only included a ‘female backpacker’ section (and later a solo female backpacker safety guide) because there was such a huge demand for it. Literally women emailed and asked if the book was applicable to them as ‘women’ travellers and they wanted something specifically for them. Thanks so much for the comment. 🙂

  4. Girl About the World says:

    Very good blog post! Definitely made me smile! I can see a little of myself in a few of the stereotypes…not gonna say which!! 😉

  5. daghhuynh says:

    lol really nice post, loved it, I found myself somewhere in it 😀

  6. crischo says:

    LOL – I found myself in 3 groups.

  7. TammyOnTheMove says:

    Ha ha, great post and so true. Is it weird to be a combination of flashpacker and Bear Grylls backpacker, because I think I am that.

    I have one to add. There are also volontourism backpackers who volunteer for local orphanages and think they are saving the world, often not knowing how much damage they are actually doing to the poor kids.

    • Thank you for the comment Tammy, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. No it isn’t weird at all! I think I’m a combination of those two myself now! Although I confess I have never stripped naked and jumped in an icy lake! Yet! ;D

      I absolutely agree on the voluntourists, I considered putting them in, but then my post started to sound a little angry! ha! Maybe I should rethink and include them! Thanks for the suggestion.:)

    • I have now added voluntourists to the list Tammy, I hope it doesn’t come across too sarcastic! Haha! Thank you for the suggestion!

  8. foreignsanctuary says:

    What a great post which made me chuckle a time of two (ok…probably three or more!) but your list is so true!

  9. Lunaguava says:

    Oh, how I love me some snark in this at times infuriatingly clueless world of travel. Was smiling all the way through, and recognized just about every one of them. Great job, kudos! Good luck and safe travels!

  10. Rachel says:

    A very, very entertaining and educational post on the amazing species that are backpackers. Glad you put in the voluntourists – organisations like GVI sure know how to catch and reel them in!

    • Thanks, you aren’t wrong! I was debating putting them in for a while because I really do believe in real volunteering when done properly, and every time I wrote about voluntourists the sarcasm meter went into meltdown, but to be fair my annoyance is just as much with the companies as the so called volunteers.

  11. Lisa Imogen Eldridge says:

    I’m a solo female backpacker but I don’t go around as if I am superior to everyone else when I’m doing it. Travelling alone as a woman is different to a man especially in countries where being a white western woman is stereotyped. Admittedly we can both be the target of crime but women are in more danger from sexual attacks and are made to feel more vulnerable. The women that I have met on the road don’t brag that they are alone in fact they generally don’t even mention it unless you ask them. We’re all not all like that.

    • Thanks for the comment Lisa, maybe you missed the ‘ tongue firmly in cheek’ part of the post? It is meant to be a bit of fun to play on the stereotypes. Of course not everyone is like that. As for travel safety I have to disagree.

  12. Raphael Alexander Zoren says:

    Reading this list, I guess I could be a mix of flashpacker and the Bear Grylls outdoor junkie.

  13. Abbi says:

    I think I
    Probably fit in with the stamp collector and the born again backpacker. Great list though … I’ve met a few brag packers in the past few years, I usually get bored of their conversations within 5 minutes!

  14. daleangloitalian says:

    I’m going to go for the unlisted = ‘ME!’

    You can probably fit me in to many of these categories, but I travel as I am for my own tastes and with my own habits, and that’s just the way I like it.

    • Yes. I know. We are all individual. You could probably fit most people into some or many of these stereotypes. That is why they are stereotypes, extremes, the archetypes that many of us see on occasion. It’s just a little bit of fun exploring the extremes of each of these stereotypical groups.

  15. Katrina says:

    I recognise every single one of these, bang on job! Totally agree with the solo female traveller thing. I travel on my own and I am a female but I do not like to harp on to others about my sex. I generally believe that your safety is dependent on the type of person you are….if you are naive and careless you will tend to get yourself in trouble regardless of sex.

    • Exactly Katrina, thank you! Of course knowledge, preperation and reasonable precautions all play a part in reducing risk and keeping ourselves safe, but that is not something specific to either or any gender. Thanks for the comment I appreciate it. 🙂

  16. travelgeektara says:

    Love this post! There are so many people who call themselves “backpackers” and often snobbery that comes with it! I fit between the flashpacker and snappacker… Unfortunately I can’t travel full time even though I would love to! 😊

    • Thank you Tara, I’m really glad you liked it. Most people do flit between one or two (or more) types, I know I do regularly! ;D And of course you can travel full time if you want to, I’ve taken many snap years and many gap years too, travelling full or part time as I wanted or needed to at the time. 🙂 Thanks for the comment, and I hope you enjoy some of the rest of the articles!

  17. 85coy says:

    Haha, brilliant! I cant wait to meet some of these characters.

  18. Rose says:

    You had me crying with laughter on this one! Great post! I fit into some of the categories and I’ve met the majority of others as well. You were spot on!

    I read the discussion about gender related safety issues as well and I must say I agree with you. Of course situations can be different for men and woman because the type of crimes they get involved in are different. However, nobody speaks about the perks of being a woman on the road, for example I have the feeling that men are still very protective over women. I travel solo, as a female and I encounter a lot of men and women who want to look after me and help me carry my oh so heavy backpack. I’ll probably piss off a lot of feminists by this but I don’t mind it when that happens. Oh, and I picked the name brave dame as well! Yikes… 😉

    • Aw thanks so much Rose I’m really glad it made you laugh. I am sorry to say though you are a fully fledged solo female backpacker! Haha! I’m just kidding (put down the sharp object)! Seriously you are absolutely right about the different situations and the perks too. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

      • Rose says:

        Hahaha! After writing so much about female travelers you must be aware of the fact that we would never stab anyone. Our revenge is also more feminine, like scratching your eyes out or doing something when least expected ;). Haha, now I’m kidding!

        However, thanks anyway for making an effort to make us (women and men) feel comfortable when traveling. It’s highly appreciated!

  19. Green Global Travel says:

    Fun breakdown of the different types of backpackers, separating them from the general stereotype.-Janeen

  20. Deepika says:

    Yes, these exist. In my experience, sometimes they can be bucketed into 2 or more of these types. And oh yes, the volunteering one is a great eye opener. I never thought about it that way. It sounds fancy and perhaps none of the things we do as a volunteer actually benefits in reality. Thanks buddy for this dope. Nicely done.

  21. Samuel Owen Varley says:

    Loved the blog Bemused Backpacker. Certainly had me laughing at a lot of times.

    I was wondering about the kind of minimalist / penny pusher backpacker who prides themselves on haggling over pennies and owning the cheapest possible things and bragging about it with anyone who’ll listen. I feel this type is worth a mention 🙂

  22. Charlie says:

    I’m closest to a flashpacker. Though I also don’t actually even carry a backpack, I travel with just one side slung carry on, and when on the move I dress smarty, so I suppose I look more like an expat or business traveller wherever I go. As far from the fisherman pants clan as you can get.

  23. Alison says:

    OMG I’ve only just found this! So funny.

  24. Helen says:

    Haha I think you definitely caught the essence of most backpacker groups there! What about the digital nomad?

  25. Olivia Gardener says:

    Hahahaha love this!

  26. Joanne McDermott says:

    I have to admit I think I’m a bit of a stamp collector, but I definitely don’t count layovers! Ahaha

  27. Louisa says:

    Love this, so funny and so true!

  28. John Lightfoot says:

    New travel game! Backpacker Bingo!

  29. Gwyn says:

    There is sometimes a lot of truth in these stereoypes!

  30. Is there a read-about-it-in-a-travel-blog back packer? I mean, these folks probably carry their computer in a backpack.

  31. sej says:

    hahaha you’re on fire!!! hilarious!

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a former nurse turned published author and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent over twenty years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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